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Cook like a pro 

Take lessons from one of SLO County's best chefs

click to enlarge NOW WE'RE COOKING: - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • NOW WE'RE COOKING:

Aspiring chefs ask with great regularity: “Where can I find professional cooking classes on the Central Coast?” Sadly, I can only answer that we don’t have anything like the California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco, or the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York or St. Helena, California, where you can earn certification as a professionally trained chef. But I can tell those who desire classic cooking techniques that there are alternatives. If you really want to cook like a pro, learn to cook from one.
 

click to enlarge SAUCE FOR YOU:  Chef Evan Treadwell prepares a tasty sauce for the night's offering. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • SAUCE FOR YOU: Chef Evan Treadwell prepares a tasty sauce for the night's offering.
I trained at CCA and proudly graduated in August 1988. It was a great time in my life when I thought becoming a chef was my destiny. Just before I began studying classic French cuisine at CCA in 1987, I met chef Cal Stamenov, an immeasurably talented cook whom I still consider one of this country’s greatest American-born chefs. Then, Stamenov was sous chef at the legendary Masa’s in San Francisco, created by chef Masataka “Masa” Kobayashi. (While writing this I called Shandi Kobayashi of Artisan in Paso Robles to ask if her husband, chef Chris, was related. Laughing, she said, “No, but wouldn’t that make a good story.”)

In 1987, upon meeting Stamenov, I enthused that I had just registered at CCA, and he advised: “You don’t need to spend money on cooking school. Get a job with a really good chef and learn on the job.” Pollyanna that I was, I couldn’t help thinking, don’t rain on my parade. Honestly, before finishing my freshman semester (four months of the 16 month program), I knew he was right. Nevertheless, I completed my culinary education because I knew no matter which direction my career turned, that experience would enhance my résumé. Besides, when I started working in the restaurant industry as a server and bartender, my original goal was to become a restaurant critic. Locals call me that but I always explain that I’m a reviewer, I don’t pan restaurants. In June I celebrated my 13th year with New Times. Naturally, my past professional experience has made all the difference in my relationships with Central Coast chefs, who treat me with respect.
 
click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- CHEF EVAN’S ABALONE CARPACCIO WITH SAKE MIGNONETTE:  The chef paired this dish with a delicious Tangent 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. It would also pair well with a dry Champagne or California sparkling wine, or a crisp Central Coast Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio. - Serves 4: - 8 oz. abalone, thinly sliced and pounded - 2 avocados, remove pits and peels, halve - 12 grapefruit segments - 24 blood orange segments - 4 T. jalapeno, finely diced - 4 T. red and yellow bell peppers, finely diced - Sake mignonette - Red or black salt to taste - Place pounded abalone on a 12-inch plate. Slice avocado in half and set sides opposite each other to create a bowl shape in the center of the abalone. Top with citrus, peppers, mignonette and salt. - Sake Mignonette - 2 T. shallots, minced - 1 / 4 cup Sake - 1 / 4 cup rice wine vinegar - Freshly cracked black pepper to taste - Finely mince shallots, rinse with cold water to remove bitterness. Boil sake on stovetop to reduce alcohol, let cool. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. -
  • CHEF EVAN’S ABALONE CARPACCIO WITH SAKE MIGNONETTE: The chef paired this dish with a delicious Tangent 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. It would also pair well with a dry Champagne or California sparkling wine, or a crisp Central Coast Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio. Serves 4:


    8 oz. abalone, thinly sliced and pounded 2 avocados, remove pits and peels, halve 12 grapefruit segments 24 blood orange segments 4 T. jalapeno, finely diced 4 T. red and yellow bell peppers, finely diced Sake mignonette Red or black salt to taste

    Place pounded abalone on a 12-inch plate. Slice avocado in half and set sides opposite each other to create a bowl shape in the center of the abalone. Top with citrus, peppers, mignonette and salt.

    Sake Mignonette
    2 T. shallots, minced 1 / 4 cup Sake 1 / 4 cup rice wine vinegar Freshly cracked black pepper to taste Finely mince shallots, rinse with cold water to remove bitterness. Boil sake on stovetop to reduce alcohol, let cool. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.

When I met chef Evan Treadwell at Vigneto, when it opened in Arroyo Grande in 2003, I immediately respected this talented and passionate gentleman. Treadwell worked with some of California’s greatest chefs, including Gary Danko, Nancy Oakes, Joyce Goldstein, and Jeremiah Tower. While cooking with Danko, whose eponymous restaurant is in San Francisco, Treadwell taught cooking classes to their many patrons and fans. Teaching comes as naturally to him as does his talent for creating incredibly delectable dishes at Lido. I’ve attended classes by many famous chefs, but rarely seen a teacher as unaffected in attitude as Treadwell. That’s the kind of teacher I prefer.

The chef keeps it fun, interesting, and always edifying. You’re provided with an apron and recipes, but the real secret is in writing down the chef’s tips throughout the process. In his class with Brad Buckley from the Cayucos Abalone Farm, we learned not only how to handle this fragile and pricey treat, we learned of its origin and of sustainability. I left the table sated and impressed.

SLO chefs who teach
 
Among SLO County’s chefs who teach cooking classes are Maegen Loring of the Park and Jose Dahan of Et Voila, both in SLO. Neither offers a cooking- class calendar but will design a class for a group of 10 or 12. You have a choice of hands-on participation, or you can watch and eat; price varies according to requested topic. “We meet on Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market to shop, then we prepare our lunch without recipes,” Loring explained. “I teach them to learn how to respond to what’s available in the market.” After cooking, Maegen and her students retreat to the outdoor patio to enjoy the resulting feast with fine local wines. At chef Debbie Dugan’s Central Coast Culinary in SLO you’ll also find cooking classes designed for kids. A great choice if your child dreams of becoming the next Emeril or Rachel Ray. Visit centralcoast culinaryandcatering.com for her upcoming calendar.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER

Chef Evan Treadwell’s cooking classes at Lido begin at 5:30 p.m. with a “Meet the Chefs” reception before the cooking demonstration that starts at 6 p.m. Not all classes feature guest chefs or growers. At the end of the class the aspiring chefs (the guests) are treated to the entire meal paired with suitable Central Coast wines. Prices are no more than what you’d normally pay for dinner out, ranging from $65 to $80 per person, not including tip or taxes. His next class is July 23, Lido Barbecue Basics, at $65 per person.

Chef Evan will take the class outdoors, where he will prepare an extensive barbecue supper, Lido style: grilled corn chowder, barbecued scallop ceviche, summer potato salad, mixed grill of smoked baby back ribs with mango-chipotle barbecue sauce, chimichurri brick chicken, banana leaf sea bass, and grilled stone fruit. As always, the chef will procure ingredients at the peak of freshness from the market. Here’s the mouth-watering list of more upcoming classes:

August 27, Cooking from the Farmers Market with Bill and Barbara Spencer from Windrose Farms, $75 per person.
Sept. 24, Food with Wine Pairing, $80 per person
Oct. 22, Sauces and Dressings, $65 per person
Nov. 19, Holiday Favorites, $65 per person

For details and reservations contact catering manager Chris Ohara at 773-4300, Ext. 4017, at the Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach.

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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